Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Cardinal Vaughan and Westminster Cathedral

A current project being undertaken by one of our volunteers is the detailed cataloguing of Cardinal Vaughan's letters. Those in the archive seem to have been used very little by researchers -probably because the original catalogue is so poor! We hope to have an improved catalogue available online within the next year.

This newly discovered letter from Vaughan to his secretary, Mgr Dunn reveals his personal care for every detail of building the new Westminster Cathedral, and the occasional perils of being a Cardinal's  secretary.

September 17 1902

“In my room, in a corner near the stand up desk, is a basket full of stones from old Cathedrals and Abbey Churches.....there are missing from the Cathedrals -Canterbury, Hereford and Westminster Abbey Church -and perhaps some others...write to the priests in Hereford and Canterbury in my name, say we have all the old Cathedrals except so and so. Hereford will be very easy to get, because in the cloister there is a great heap of stones taken out of the old building. As we only want a few inches of the old material -it ought not to be difficult to pick up something in Westminster Abbey also.

Next, take a hammer and divide each stone into 3 pieces -one to go into the cement or grouting of the High Altar, one for the Blessed Sacrament Altar, and a third from the Lady Altar. There are some larger stones, finials etc -which might be kept for the Lady Altar as entire as possible and so arranged in building up the side of the altar as to be visible to any one looking at it for that purpose.”

So far we have not been able to discover whether Vaughan managed to collect all the Cathedrals, whether the stones were in fact cemented into the new cathedral altars and if poor Mgr Dunn was sent to Westminster Abbey under cover of darkness with a hammer and chisel. Any further information would be appreciated!

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